Button, button, who's got the button? Vintage pattern designers, that's who!
In today's post, I'm looking at buttons as design elements, not as the practical closures they are. Buttons were in fact first used as decorative items, not as ways to hold your clothes together. The earliest button found dates to about 5,000 years ago in what is now Pakistan, and it was, as you might expect, made out of a shell. Buttons became status symbols in the Middle Ages, and they often were used--again, decoratively--to follow the curve of a body part (along an arm, up the back, etc.--and they still are: think of gorgeous wedding dresses with many many tiny buttons up the back of the dress, which are also suggestive of the pleasure of undoing of them!).
Poorer people had to make their own buttons, often carving them from bone or shell. Making buttons to sell, as piecework, was also a way to make money; this cottage industry continued until the Industrial Revolution. Dorset buttons, elaborate buttons made with thread, were a way for women, in particular, to support themselves. Again, the advent of mechanized button-making machines meant the demise of this handicraft (which is being revived today: here is a tutorial on how to make your own Dorset buttons).
(Button facts drawn from an article on Slate.com)
The Textile Society.org/UK).
Below are some lovely garments that use buttons as design elements (some are only decorative, some serve both practical and decorative purposes). Buttons were often used to create pleasing asymmetry, as well as to accentuate a scallop, a tab, the midriff...
I've only included adult garments...we'll look at children's clothing another time. And as for buttons themselves--vintage buttons are a whole world unto themselves.
(Be sure to click on the image to enlarge it to see more detail.)
1. Simplicity 4701: PaneenJerez
2. Vogue 120: Anne8865
3. Advance 9860: BlueTreeSewing (the classic cheongsam)
2. (I liked this one so much, it's here twice--oops! See above)
1. Marian Martin R9053 (a button on/off capelet)
Button loveliness galore!
The Pearly Kings and Queens of London REALLY know how to use buttons as design elements (picture is blurry, but all of the white elements are mother-of-pearl buttons)!
What do YOU think is cute as a button? Please tell us in the comments!